Layering up is the key to staying cosy and warm in changeable weather, and perhaps the most versatile bit of kit you can own for outdoor adventures is a great insulated jacket.

A down or synthetic insulated mid layer works brilliantly when worn under a thick coat on icy mornings, used with a waterproof shell on rainy days or worn alone as a light outer jacket when the weather improves.

Insulated jackets range in thickness from lightweight, breathable options to heavier, bulky versions – the former are better for sports such as climbing and hiking and for use in warm spring weather, the latter are ideal for winter dog walks or for keeping cosy on camping trips.

Should I opt for down or synthetic fill?

Insulated jackets are usually stuffed with either animal down or synthetic down. Synthetic insulation is rapidly catching up with animal down’s heat-trapping properties, and is also lighter, but can feel bulkier than down. Synthetic insulation dries faster and still offers some warmth when wet, so it’s a better choice for rainy days.

Animal down (usually duck or goose down) is warmer overall than synthetic materials, but it’s best to avoid buying cheap animal down jackets, as the stuffing may have been unethically harvested.

Choosing a synthetic jacket avoids that problem, although some brands now use humanely harvested and traceable down insulation – look for Responsible Down Standard certified down (RDS), a voluntary global standard.

Are insulated jackets waterproof?

Insulated jackets may be water resistant or quick drying, but they aren’t usually fully waterproof – you’ll need to wear a waterproof shell jacket on top in heavy rain. When trying on any mid layer, check it feels snug enough to keep heat trapped in but is not restrictive.

What other features should I look out for?

Zipped pockets and a well-fitting hood are useful features to look for, and some lighter down jackets that weigh under 500g can stuff down into a stow sack or into their own pocket, which is handy for popping into a backpack on hiking or cycling trips. These jackets all offered great warmth and were tested on hikes and camping adventures in cold and stormy weather.

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The verdict: Insulated jackets

The Montane Phoenix is a hardworking, versatile jacket at a decent price point. For top-end warmth and quality, go for Fjallraven’s keb touring jacket. On a budget? We rate Craghoppers compresslite IV.

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